The knockout encounter seems to have come early in the case of Pakistan and South Africa with both sides having lost their opening games. I thought both teams were equally disappointing in those games. South Africa, of course, had their work cut out against India with the injury to Morkel which has now ruled him out of the tournament.
With Steyn already on the casualty list and facing a race against time to be fit for today’s clash, losing Morkel is a double whammy for a side already without two key players in Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith. You are talking about true match-winners there, and, as the India game showed, once Morkel was out of the picture, the Proteas attack were made to look ordinary by the Indian batsmen.
I had expressed concern over Pakistan’s batting in these conditions, especially without the experience of Shahid Afridi and the guile of Umar Akmal, and so it proved in their opener against the West Indies. They are surely going to have to bat a lot better to give themselves a chance, but I suppose if they are to beat South Africa, this could well be the game.
They can indeed take a lot of heart from their bowling effort, even if the Windies game showed that without enough runs on the board, you face an uphill task however good your bowling attack.
So yes, it might just be the second game for both teams, but it’s effectively already a semi-final clash. While there is still no clear indication whether Steyn will be 100 per cent fit, I really think it’s reached a stage where South Africa will field him even if he may not have made a full recovery. Such is his ability, that even at 75 per cent fitness, he is still a threat.
However, at the end of the day, much as I hate to admit it, I can’t see either of these teams going too far, whoever wins this match. I had picked South Africa to do well prior to the start of the tournament, but that was before the injuries to Morkel and Steyn.
As for Pakistan, there’s always a question mark over their batting in English conditions, and I do believe they aren’t the same force without Afridi, Umar Akmal and Umar Gul. If I had to pick the two sides that have impressed me the most so far, they would have to be India and England.
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